HPF recently welcomed Dr Karyn Maclennan, a lecturer in Hauora Māori at the Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit at the University of Otago, to its Board.

Dr Maclennan whose background is in pharmacology and psychology has worked in teaching, research and regulation related to medicines safety and optimal use of medicine. Her current mahi is focused on improving communication about medicines and health, and her research is primarily in the area of Māori health and health equity

Hauora was delighted to catch up with Dr Maclennan for an indepth interview to find out a bit more about her mahi and work with
whānau and communities.  We were also keen to find out more about her passion for using creative, accessible, and engaging methods of communication to empower communities to have confident discussions and make informed and positive decisions about their health and well-being, and what new projects are on the horizon.

HAUORA:  We would love to know a bit more about you? Can you share with us a bit about yourself and your background?

KARYN: Kia ora, I whakapapa to Taranaki iwi through my mother, and I have Scottish ancestry through my father. My whānau have lived in Dunedin for several generations, a place that has close connections with both Taranaki and Scotland. I have lived and worked in both Wellington and England, but my husband and I returned to Dunedin nearly 15 years ago and are raising our three children close to whānau. I have a background in pharmacology and psychology and have worked in teaching, research and regulation related to medicines safety and optimal use of medicines. Since returning to Dunedin, my work has focused on improving communication about medicines and health, working with communities and, with my colleagues in the Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit at Otago University, a commitment to understanding and improving Māori health outcomes.

HAUORA: On the professional front can you tell us about what your mahi as a lecturer in Hauora Māori, at the Ngāi Tahu Māori Health Research Unit at the University of Otago entails and about what your current research is focused on?

KARYN: I am fortunate to work closely with Professor Sue Crengle in teaching hauora a iwi, Māori public health, to undergraduate students at Otago University. We’re grateful to experts in our community who at times join us as guest lecturers to share their knowledge and mahi. It is always hugely appreciated and inspiring; sparking conversations, encouraging deeper understandings of context, and stimulating creative thought about sustaining change. For some, I hope this ignites a career in Maori health, but for everyone, I hope this is woven into whatever they choose to do and how they live their lives.

My research at the moment is primarily in the area of Māori health and health equity. Most recently, I have been privileged to work with whānau and communities on issues including cancer supportive care, hauora rangatahi – the health and well-being of our young people, and health equity for Māori in the Southern Health System.  I am also very much enjoying leading an Unlocking Curious Minds funded community engagement initiative, which aims to generate community conversations about medicines.

HAUORA: You are passionate about using creative, accessible, and engaging methods of communication to empower communities to have confident discussions and to make informed and positive decisions about their health and well-being. How did this passion evolve?

KARYN: I definitely enjoy spending time thinking about, talking about, and attempting to use creative, accessible, and engaging methods of communication to support whānau and communities in making well-informed decisions about their health and their use of medicines. Underlying this is the belief that, more than ever, rangatahi, whānau, and communities need access to culturally relevant, accessible and engaging information that is grounded in science, not mis- or dis-information. This is imperative in enabling young people and their whānau to have confident conversations and make well-informed decisions about their use of medicines, in building greater capacity to actively participate in addressing health issues in their communities, and in taking part in societal debate about important national and global issues, such as vaccination and antibiotic resistance. Everyone has the right to accessible health and medicines information they can use to navigate towards well-informed choices for themselves and their whānau. It is fundamental to promoting health, managing illness, and living well with chronic disease.

HAUORA: Part of your work at the community level involves leading a kanohi-ki-te-kanohi community engagement programme. How does this programme use these methods of communication, how effective are they and what are the aims of the programme?

KARYN: Framed by an overarching waka and wayfinding analogy, we have collated and created a suite of hands-on and interactive displays, demonstrations and activities through which tamariki and their whānau can journey into the science of medicines. Each paddle of our waka steers to a different part of this journey – exploring and discovering where medicines come from, how they work to prevent or treat illness, how to use them safely to protect ourselves and our planet, and putting our minds together to tackle current and future challenges related to medicines and health.

We take these resources to schools, marae, community hubs, and cultural festivals or events and have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from communities across Otago and Southland. As you might imagine, we have seen a huge desire for dialogue about Covid-19, vaccines, and community immunity over the last year, and have been privileged to support some of the incredible work being done in this area by NGOs and community groups in the Southern region. It has highlighted both the importance of kanohi-ki-te-kanohi engagement with our communities and a huge appetite for conversations about medicines – no te whitiwhiti kōrero i mohio ai, it is through shared conversation that I understand.


HAUORA: You’re also a member of the Taranaki iwi ki Ōtepoti ohu. Can you please elaborate on your role and what the aims of the group are?

KARYN: For all sorts of reasons, many Taranaki iwi uri live outside of the rohe, with some disconnected over many generations. In recognition of this, a key aspiration of Taranaki iwi uri is to strengthen our iwi cultural identity and bring us together as whānau. The Te Kāhui o Taranaki engagement team has done amazing work over the last year, travelling around and connecting with uri across the regions, and helping to establish a number of regional ohu. The purpose of these ohu is to facilitate connection, or reconnection, of Taranaki iwi uri with each other, and with Taranaki iwi kaupapa.

I am a member of the Taranaki iwi ki Ōtepoti ohu and, while Covid-19 has meant we have not yet come together face-to-face, we have an online space where uri living in Otago and Southland can connect. It’s a wonderful opportunity for new growth and the weaving of strong connections between uri and to our Taranakitanga.


HAUORA: Aotearoa New Zealand’s health system is changing the way it will structure and deliver health services to New Zealanders, with the new bodies, Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority, to come into effect in early July. How optimistic are you that this will improve services and achieve equitable health outcomes for Māori?

KARYN: The potential of the current time is energising and I am definitely cautiously optimistic! There is a long way to go and the details to come will be important. Having said that, we know what doesn’t work and can learn from what has gone before. I think we are poised at the cusp of tremendous opportunity.

HAUORA: What prompted you to join the Board of HPF?

KARYN: Working for, and alongside, others who share a common commitment to improved hauora through health promotion, giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the central positioning of whānau and communities is a wonderful opportunity and a pleasure.  

HAUORA: Have you got any new projects/programmes lined up for the near future?

KARYN: I am excited to be continuing our community engagement work by taking Whakatere Waka, an extension and expansion of our Science of Medicines mahi, more widely across the Southern region and into provincial North Island communities such as Taranaki and  Central North Island. We’ll also soon be launching a D-Bug digital game design challenge for rangatahi, where they can work in teams or go solo mode to design or create a game about viruses and how we can defend against them. I hope this will both create exposure and excite interest in potential careers combining creativity and science, such as through digital storytelling.

For Whakatere Waka, we are particularly excited to be partnering with the fabulous science communication team at Otago Museum, who are also continuing their award-winning climate change mahi by taking an interactive suite of resources to remote communities across mainland NZ, and to the Chatham and Pacific Islands. The connection and collaboration with communities is definitely the highlight for me – it’s both extremely rewarding and a whole lot of fun!



REGISTRATIONS ARE NOW OPEN for our next ONLINE (Intake 2) Certificate of Achievement in Introducing Health Promotion (CoA) jointly offered by HPF and the Manukau Institute of Technology starting with BLOCK one from June 14 – 17. BLOCK two is from July 12 – 15.

Broaden your knowledge of the determinants of health, application of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Ottawa Charter to health promotion, and learn more about key health promotion strategies and skills, values and ethics. Build stronger knowledge of indigenous models and how to embed them into practice. Establish more networks in the health industry!

HPF’s Māori Health Promotion Strategist and course facilitator Mereana Te Pere says people who work in the health field should understand that health promotion is its own field and discipline.

“Health promotion is mistaken as handing out flyers and promoting events – but it is so much more than that. Health promotion is about ensuring wellness for everyone, and includes spirituality and the natural environment. It’s about identifying and addressing the big issues that affect health, and enabling communities to drive the strategies to achieve collective wellness,” says Mereana.

“Health promotion is exciting and relevant because we can all participate and contribute to protecting hauora. This course is an eye-opener for anyone working in health. It gives students a broader understanding of what health means in Aotearoa, and equips the learners with strategies and action plans to address the pressing issues we face today. If you think you know everything there is to know about health promotion, this course will challenge that theory in a fun, supportive and interactive way.”

For enquiries email



Mereana previously worked for The Department of Corrections within the prison system and as a Sport and Health Kaiako through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

She has worked predominantly in the education sector with Māori and rangatahi. Her professional and personal aspirations have centred around developing and advocating for strategies that achieve educational success for Māori, with a focus on supporting Māori learners disenfranchised from traditional methods of schooling and learning.   Her future goals are in elevating the skills and knowledge of the work force to better meet the health needs and rights of Māori communities and whānau. Through health promotion Mereana aims to enable Māori communities to achieve a more sustainable and better quality of life.


In December last year a senior leadership team of the Health Promotion Forum of NZ (HPF) and its collaborators joined over 5000 participants at a global health promotion conference who met virtually and in Geneva, Switzerland and agreed on the Geneva Charter for Wellbeing.

The 10th World Health Organization (WHO) Global Conference on Health Promotion marked the start of a global movement on the concept of well-being in societies and the Charter highlighted the need for global commitments to achieve equitable health and social outcomes now and for future generations, without destroying the health of our planet. 

In a recent interview with the Public Health Association of NZ (PHANZ) HPF’s Executive Director Sione Tu’itahi to find out more about the Charter and its key elements, such as the inclusion of the knowledge and leadership of Indigenous peoples, the contribution made by the HPF team to the Charter and its relevance to Aotearoa New Zealand. 


PHANZ: The 10th World Health Organization (WHO) Global Conference on Health Promotion which was held virtually and in Geneva last December has been hailed as marking the start of a global movement on the concept of well-being in societies? How did you and the rest of the HPF senior leadership team and contributors find the experience of participating in this conference?

Sione: Our team was delighted and humbled by the invitation from WHO for the Health Promotion Forum (HPF) to offer a workshop on planetary health and indigenous knowledge at this world conference.

For HPF the invitation reflected on the close working relationship that we have built with WHO since the 2019 World Conference on Health Promotion that HPF co-hosted with the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) in Rotorua. Our theme of Waiora: promoting planetary health and sustainable development for all was very timely. Planetary health is the most significant health challenge in the world today. And we advocated for the role of indigenous peoples and their co-leadership in that conference. The WHO delegation at the conference were very impressed with our work, hence the invitation to contribute to their 2021 conference.

PHANZ: What are some of the key elements of the Charter that are of direct relevance to Aotearoa New Zealand and how much of a role did you and the rest of the team play in contributing to the Charter. I believe you played a key role in getting an acknowledgement of the spiritual dimension of well-being included in the Charter. Why is this element so important?

All delegates to the WHO conference were given the opportunity to contribute to the Charter. On behalf of our team, I contributed the concepts of planetary health, indigenous knowledge, the spiritual dimension of well-being, taking a systems-approach and elevating the consciousness and perspective to a one-world society, rather than viewing the health challenges from an individual state level.  These ideas were well received by some members of the drafting team of the Charter, who came back to me for some refinement.  Some of the ideas I contributed were also reinforced by one of the members of our Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health at IUHPE. So, it was a good team effort.

The Geneva Charter for Well-being is of significant and direct relevance to Aotearoa New Zealand for a number of reasons. First, the Geneva Charter builds on the 1986 Ottawa Charter. In our country, health promotion is based on the Ottawa Charter and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Second, the Geneva Charter points out planetary health as one of the major health challenges for humanity today. Third, it acknowledges that Indigenous peoples and their knowledge can contribute solutions. Fourth, the charter broadens our understanding of health and well-being to include physical, mental, social, economic, ecological, and spiritual wellbeing.  There are other important aspects of the charter for New Zealand, but these are some to start with.

PHANZ: It’s so encouraging to see the inclusion of the knowledge and leadership of Indigenous peoples as a key element of the Charter. Do you see this as a ‘breakthrough’ especially when it comes to planetary health?

Including the last two dimensions of ecological and spiritual wellbeing in the Geneva Charter is quite a milestone achieved, especially from an Indigenous perspective. It means, among other things, our human family now can see the inherent oneness and interdependence of all aspects of life, and that our environment or Mother Nature is one with us. So, there cannot be human well-being without planetary well-being.

It is heartening and encouraging to see the Charter acknowledging the leadership of Indigenous peoples and the stewardship on sustaining the well-being of the planet and the environment. This is something that Indigenous leaders and their co-workers across the world have been advocating for over many decades as part of seeking the human rights, to stop racism and colonisation, raising their concerns at a number of international platforms such as the United Nations and its many agencies. We have come a long way and many initiatives are now in place to address these concerns, but we still have a long way to go at both national and global levels.

Meanwhile, the Geneva Charter provides an opportunity, and while it comes with a huge responsibility, I am sure Indigenous peoples across the world, together with their colleagues and co-advocates, will rise to the challenge. And I am sure we here in Aotearoa will continue to play a leading role.

PHANZ: Past epidemics, and the current Covid-19 pandemic have shown us the importance of resilient health systems. How much of an impact will the Charter, which focuses on a ‘wellbeing society’ and what needs to be done in order to better prevent and respond to the multiple health and ecological crises we face globally, have on our response to any future outbreaks/pandemics? 

Sione: While not entirely new, the concept of a ‘well-being society’ is a more recent framing in different parts of the world. And while it manifests in different forms across diverse contexts and levels, it has some core elements that the Geneva Charter outlines. Among these elements is a more comprehensive understanding of health and well-being which I mentioned earlier – from physical and mental to social, economic, ecological, and spiritual. Health is not just physical and GDP. We must include the well-being of the planet and make sure all our human systems and activities are contained within the sustainability capacity of the planet. We have overstepped this planetary capacity and that is why we are facing global challenges such as pandemics, floods, global warming, and melting of polar ice. In other words, promoting well-being societies is a health promotion response to these challenges. It was heartening to see at the conference that New Zealand and a few other countries were commended for using the well-being approach and therefore are doing well in advancing the holistic wellbeing of their respective countries.


PHANZ: According to WHO the Charter will drive policymakers and world leaders to globally commit to achieving equitable health and social outcomes now and for future generations, without destroying the health of our planet. This sounds positive, but how do we get them to ‘commit to concrete’ action?

 My take is that the Charter is a call for a societal approach at the global level and down to the local level. It provides a road map for institutions, communities, and individuals to do their part in our collective responsibility in creating a society that is healthy, peaceful, and prosperous, and where power and resources are distributed in equitable ways for the well-being of all at the global level, and down to the local level.

The Charter has outlined a pathway with five areas for action, similar to the framework of the Ottawa Charter. It requires a lot of study and application over the next few years. Similar to the gains made by the Ottawa Charter in informing and driving initiatives across the world to improve the health and well-being of societies, the Geneva Charter can do the same and more.

It can do more because the challenges of today are different from those in the 1980s. Also, we have learned over the intervening years that some of our human systems such as capitalism and neo-liberalism, colonisation, racial and gender prejudice, other forms of discrimination, and exploiting the environment are not working and we are suffering.

Today the environment is top of the agenda in all international meetings from the World Economic Forum to the UN. One can observe the same at the national level. World leaders are now taking health and well-being more seriously because they now see the inter-connectedness between pandemics, the economy, the environment, and geo-politics. In other words, all the determinants of health are connected as part of a whole system. Therefore, we must take a systems and eco-social approach.

More importantly, we need to elevate our consciousness to think and act for the well-being of the human family, not just one’s country. To use an analogy, our home planet is on fire. Focusing on our individual country room is a sure recipe for more catastrophes for all.  Self-interest is a luxury we can no longer afford. And the spiritual dimension of well-being reminds us that our relationship with our fellow human beings, and our planet must be ethical and spiritual if we are to flourish individually and collectively.


The Geneva Charter for Well-being calls upon non-governmental and civic organizations, academia, business, governments, international organizations and all concerned to work in society-wide partnerships for decisive implementation of strategies for health and well-being. These will drive the transformation towards well-being societies in all countries, centring around the most marginalized populations.

The document encourages five key actions:  

  • Design an equitable economy that serves human development within planetary boundaries;
  • Create public policy for the common good;
  • Achieve universal health coverage;
  • Address the digital transformation to counteract harm and disempowerment and to strengthen the benefits; and
  • Value and preserve the planet.

“Health does not begin in a hospital or clinic. It begins in our homes and communities, with the food we eat and the water we drink, the air we breathe, in our schools and our workplaces. We have to fundamentally change the way that leaders in politics, the private sector, and international institutions think about and value health, and to promote growth that is based on health and well-being for people and the planet, for countries in all income levels.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.


Banner photo by Unma Desai on Unsplash